Rye City School District ▪ 411 Theodore Fremd Ave Suite 100S, Rye, NY 10580 ▪ (914) 967-6100 

 Board Notes  


2013-2014 Board of Edu
Laura Slack, President ▪ Katy Keohane Glassberg, VP  
Karen Belanger ▪ Edward M. Fox ▪ Nancy Pasquale ▪ Chris Repetto ▪ Nicole Weber

A Summary of the 2/11/14 Rye City School District Board of Education Meeting


Superintendent's Report  
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alvarez provided a report to the Board and to the community, announcing that on February 11 the State adopted changes to the roll-out of the Common Core. He explained that the graduating class of 2022, which is the current fourth grade, will be the first required to pass English and Mathematics Regents Exams of college- and career-ready levels. Previously it was the class of 2017. Although the State adopted 19 recommendations in total, many do not apply to Rye. Dr. Alvarez assured that the District will keep the public informed as it receives more direction from the State, and expressed that these recent changes show that the State is starting to listen to the thousands who have come out asking to slow down the roll-out of educational reform efforts. 


Dr. Alvarez also made an announcement regarding the panel that was held on February 12, stressing the need for parents to get involved in advocating for further changes to the educational reform initiatives. He explained that the District has been part of broader advocacy efforts, and holding this panel in Rye was intended to allow for discussion of issues specific to the Rye City School District. Topics for the panel, entitled, "The High Cost of Reform: How New York State Public Education Reform Affects Rye's Students, Parents and District Educationally and Financially," included the implementation of Common Core, high-stakes testing, privacy issues around inBloom, and the tax cap. Senator George Latimer and Assemblyman Steve Otis, both of whom have been very supportive of the Districts efforts, were among the featured presenters. 

Gifts to the District  
The Board approved two gifts to the District. The Rye Crew Booster Club funded a gift valued at $29,687 for crew team equipment, and the Middle School PO supported the gift of an indoor batting cage at Rye Middle School. Board of Education President Laura Slack expressed thanks on behalf of the Board to the parents and community members who generously provide gifts such as these, supporting the schools and students.
The Board approved the retirement of Lynn Ferguson, who has provided the District with almost 28 years of service and, as a former resident and parent of Rye graduates, is a friend to many people in this community. Mrs. Ferguson was hired as a library clerk at Midland School in 1986, and transferred to the role of Senior Typist in 1988. Since then, she has served as a senior office assistant, assistant tax collector, and benefits coordinator in the Central Administration office. Board President Laura Slack spoke on behalf of the Board in thanking Mrs. Ferguson and wishing her a happy retirement.
Seventh-Grade Spanish Curriculum Update 
Teachers Kristie Orlando-Bangali and Dawn King led a presentation on the revised Seventh-Grade Spanish Curriculum, discussing the effectiveness of the program and the enthusiasm students have for learning the language. The presentation also highlighted the success of the Foreign Language in Elementary Schools (FLES) program in setting an excellent foundation for language studies.

The seventh-grade Spanish curriculum was revised with the following objectives: to align with state and national standards; to cover the cornerstones of language acquisition (listening, writing, speaking, and communicating in general); to prepare students for the future Advanced Placement exam; and to provide student motivation, meaningfulness, and rigor. The revisions were geared toward longer-term retention of knowledge; emphasis on useful vocabulary related to many topics encountered in everyday life; and mastery of the present, present progressive, and simple future tenses.

The Spanish program is based on an immersion model. Mrs. Orlando and Mrs. King explained that their classrooms are "Spanish-speaking-only" zones, prompting students to utilize the language and to challenge themselves continually. Communication is a key focus, with class lessons and activities including oral presentations, picture description, interviews, discussions and conversations with peers, skits, and simulated classroom dialogue. Students have shared overwhelmingly positive feedback, many reporting that their Spanish has improved tremendously and that they are eager to speak Spanish outside of the classroom.
High School College Placement Report  
Rye High School Principal Patricia Taylor and Guidance Counselor James O'Hara provided a mid-year report on college applications, decisions, and acceptances for the Class of 2014. They shared a number of relevant statistics and facts as of January 31, 2014, specifically mentioning that 1,401 college applications to 267 different colleges have been processed to date for the 201 seniors at Rye High School. Many early decision and early action college applications were submitted and accepted! Eighty percent of seniors applied early decision or early action, and 55% of early decision applications were accepted while 30% of early action applications were accepted. Seventy-eight percent of students applied regular decision and can expect to hear from their selected schools in March and April. May 1 is typically the decision date for most students.

Among the many colleges with multiple RHS student early decision acceptances are: Bates College, Connecticut College, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Denison University, Franklin and Marshall College, George Washington University, Hamilton University, Hobart & William Smith College, Lehigh University, University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, and Wesleyan University. Those with multiple RHS student early action acceptances are: Berklee College of Music, College of Charleston, Boston College, University of Miami, Loyola University, Tulane University, Miami University, University of Virginia, Northeastern University, Yale University, and Providence College. A number of students will be continuing their athletic involvement on college teams, while others will be pursuing musical and artistic talents at colleges specializing in these areas. 

All final college decisions will be made by May 1, and the High School administrators and guidance staff will be working with students as they continue their application and decision-making processes!
Strategic Priorities: Teacher Effectiveness
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Dr. Betty Ann Wyks provided an update on Teacher Effectiveness, one of the District's five goals. Academic Achievement was the focus at the January 28 Board meeting, and the remaining three goals -- Culture of Caring, Fiscal Responsibility, and Community Engagement -- will be addressed at future meetings. 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alvarez introduced the presentation and summarized its contents of data-driven instruction, the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching model that the District utilizes, revisiting of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) Plan, and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). He also mentioned that the District is creating a best practices mentoring program for teachers, which Rye Middle School teacher Craig Dreves is helping to design based on what the District is already doing combined with other best practice models that exist. 

Dr. Wyks defined teacher effectiveness as meaning "All administrators, teachers 
and staff will perform at the highest professional levels to ensure the success of all students." She explained that many discussions and resources have been allocated to this, as it lies at the core of the District's mission to educate students. 

Data Teams
The first area discussed was that of data teams and how to use information about students to inform instruction and make the best decisions appropriate to each child's education. Osborn School Principal Angela Garcia elaborated on this subject, providing insight into some of the practices used at Osborn. Mrs. Garcia emphasized that, just as collaborative inquiry is important in the classroom, it also plays an important role to educators in improving instruction. She explained how inquiry ties in with the Framework for Teaching model, then reviewed data-driven dialogue protocol following protocol established by professional development/school data expert Nancy Love. Mrs. Garcia explained the protocol's three phases of prediction, observations, and inferences, and how they can lead to inferences about students based on factual data. She shared examples of spreadsheets containing assessment results and described the way that the data is examined, compared, and applied for improvement of instruction. 

Following Mrs. Garcia's presentation, Dr. Wyks announced that representatives from each of the elementary schools recently joined her at Columbia University for an opportunity to explore the Framework for Teaching model and how it intersects with the Teachers' College Readers Writers Workshop models. She then discussed student engagement as an important component, in addition to data analysis, within the Framework for Teaching. 

Student Engagement
Milton School Principal JoAnne Nardone spoke about the focus on high levels of deep cognitive engagement in the curriculum as well as differentiation in instruction. She described a significant shift that is underway; the traditional role of teachers being in front of the classrooms  lecturing has changed, and teachers are now often viewed as "guides on the sides," scaffolding and modeling skills that the students then have opportunities to directly engage in to enhance their understanding. Students initiate certain choices and topics, and have opportunities to engage with one another and participate in their own instruction based on examples provided by teachers. 

Dr. Nardone highlighted several techniques and initiatives at Milton as examples that support student engagement. Literature Circles call for students working in groups and generally having different roles. Together they analyze, make connections, formulate questions, compare their materials, look at the language of the text, relate it to various other subjects, and practice vocabulary. The teacher rotates among groups to make sure that all are understanding and participating. The Science 21 curriculum, which has been implemented in each of the District's elementary schools, has had a dramatic impact on boosting students' levels of energy and excitement. The program prompts students to become more collaborative while reflecting on their own progress. Student Interest Centers are utilized by second graders at Milton and begin with guided activities. The children then move on to conduct and present their own research and review their progress. The Responsive Classroom philosophy embraced by Milton has students meeting in groups to review messages for the day, including key areas that they will work on as they develop behaviors and skills that they need both academically and for good citizenship. Lastly, Dr. Nardone listed the many leadership opportunities that exist at all of the District's schools, as well as anticipated results such as greater enthusiasm and stamina for learning, higher self confidence, improved academic performance, enhanced social skills/conduct, and opportunities for leadership.  

Dr. Wyks discussed additional best practices, mentioning the teacher mentoring piece, literacy initiatives with professional development expert Sharon Taberski, and the review and analysis of state-released items from the test bank for the Common Core. She also spoke about the APPR Plan, which is being revisited based upon its effectiveness in teacher evaluations, student growth, and local achievement. Dr. Wyks then introduced the District's Instructional Technology Specialist, Kaitlyn Sassone, to share some of the technological best practices found in the District's schools. 

Ms. Sassone first discussed the increased use of mobile technology and collaboration tools to support curriculum at the K-2 level, explaining more fully two resources -- Nearpod and Raz-Kids -- that enhance student learning while also allowing teachers to monitor student progress. The Nearpod presentation tool utilizes mobile devices, as demonstrated in the video that was shown. Raz-Kids was mentioned as an online interactive library that helps students to improve their reading skills. Ms. Sassone then reviewed technology resources utilized in grades 3-5. Prezi, a visual and interactive presentation and storytelling application, serves as a way to share ideas by navigating throughout a single canvas rather than slides, providing a web-based alternative to PowerPoint. Other tools utilized include Wikis, which provide writing opportunities that can be shared with wider audiences in Wikispaces classrooms, and Kidblog, which offers a safe and private classroom blogging space. 

At the Middle School level, Google Apps is used as a productivity suite that offers a way for students and teachers to collaborate and communicate on documents, research, and other assignments. It is supported by Hapara, a teacher dashboard that provides an overview of student activity across various apps and tools. Google Apps is also utilized at the High School, where a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative was introduced this year, enabling students to use their own mobile devices in the classrooms. 

In looking ahead at the future, Ms. Sassone explained that aging desktops will potentially be replaced with laptops and iPad carts, and that the BYOD initiative will likely be expanded to the Middle School. 

Professional Learning Communities
Rye Middle School Principal Ann Edwards provided insight regarding Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and mentioned two books she read and discussed with Middle School staff. Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion focuses on how to deliver and maximize time in the classroom, and Andrew Solomon's Far from the Tree provides a greater understanding of what students in various circumstances are experiencing. Both have been read and discussed in professional development sessions and have been reported as useful to teachers. 

Next Regular Meeting
February 25, 2014
8:00 pm 
Rye Middle School    Multipurpose Room

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